HomeOlympicOlympics-obsessed Dobbin decided to dwell dream to the total

Olympics-obsessed Dobbin decided to dwell dream to the total

The Olympic Games were something of an obsession for Beth Dobbin long before she realised she had any chance of representing Great Britain in Tokyo

The 2012 Olympics gripped Great Britain but for Beth Dobbin they exerted something of a hypnotic quality.

Despite being only 18 at the time, the university-bound Dobbin splashed out on all the Olympic memorabilia available, even down to the Team GB egg cups.

“When 2012 came around I was literally Olympics obsessed,” Dobbin says. “I had flags hanging out of my bedroom window. I bought London 2012 cutlery, plates, coasters, mugs, bowls, teddy bears – you name it, I bought it.”

This was the summer the Doncaster athlete took a silver medal in the senior girls’ 200m at the English Schools Championships in Gateshead, while the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford were winning Olympic golds in London’s Olympic Stadium.

Nine years on, the very athletes she idolised have retired and made way for a new generation of British athletes – but never in her most extravagant fantasies could she have envisaged that she would become one of the athletes competing at a spectacle she so gushed over as a teenager.

Dobbin’s career progression has followed much the same trajectory as her 200m races. She drives hard, but often finds herself one or two metres adrift of her competitors with half the race already gone. But in the home straight Dobbin comes into her element and picks off her rivals, one by one, in a lung-busting push to the finish line.

Her sprinting career got off to a similarly slow start – though not through want of trying. She joined Doncaster Athletics Club as a 14-year-old and year after year she competed on her home track at the South Yorkshire Schools Championships in the hope that she would make the national finals. For four successive years, she came up short.

Beth Dobbin (Mark Shearman)

However, in 2012, she surged past her competitors to qualify for the English Schools finals, before going on to take a shock silver in the final later that summer.

“I’d been trying to make the team every year,” she says. “But I’d just never hit the standard and never done well at the regional schools’ championships. At English Schools, I finished second in my heat, and then in the final I very much ran the race how I run it to this day.

“I think I could have been in last place coming off the bend, but I finished so strong that I just flew past the other girls.”

It would be another nine years before Dobbin would race in Gateshead again – only, by the time 2021 came around, she was a Scottish record holder and had cemented herself in the Olympic team as one Britain’s top 200m sprinters.

It has been quite some journey since that shock silver medal as an 18-year-old. She moved to Loughborough University to take up her degree in psychology in 2012, making sure to take the copious amounts of Olympic memorabilia with her from Doncaster.

In Loughborough she started working with her current coach Leon Baptiste, who at the time was the reigning Commonwealth champion in the 200m.

“It was literally just by chance that I started working with Leon,” Dobbin recalls. “I emailed some of the coaches at Loughborough asking about training with them and I think he was just the first one who replied!”

Photo by Mark Shearman

Encountering Baptiste may have been a stroke of luck, but the years of success since have been no accident. Dobbin and Baptiste are similar in that they share a prodigious work ethic as well as a complete trust in one another. It culminated in Dobbin’s extraordinary breakthrough season in 2018, where she took 0.7sec off her personal best and became British 200m champion, beating established names such as Bianca and Jodie Williams.

“I still to this day don’t know how, or why, that 2018 season happened,” she says. No one was more surprised than me. Even now, me and Leon ask each other ‘how has this happened’? It almost doesn’t make sense.

“Leon always says I found my woman strength when I was at university, and everyone finds it at different ages. When I moved to Loughborough I was extremely skinny and didn’t have an ounce of muscle on me.

“I remember doing a bench press session when Leon was teaching me how to do it for the first time, and it was with the 15kg bar. I brought it down to my chest and I just couldn’t push it back up – and 15kg is not heavy!”

“I think the results over the past few years are a testament to Leon’s patience with me. The reason we get on so well is because we have a very similar outlook. I want to work hard. I want to make sacrifices. I want to do to everything I can to be the best athlete I can be. I think Leon respects that and can see that in me because that’s how he was as an athlete.”

With the apogee of Dobbin’s career only hours away, the excitement, the nerves and the sense of disbelief are still fresh.

“Who would have thought all those years later, this would have happened?” she asks. “It’s just been kind of a miracle really – it’s been a really, really special journey.”

Should she channel the years of graft and sacrifice into around 22 seconds’ worth of effort on Monday, one would suspect her journey won’t end here.

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